New Rule

A woman who doesn’t acknowledge that divorce can be a positive experience for women doesn’t get to write about women’s issues in a major newspaper.

Barbara Ellen, arguing we must “Sink the Pink,” because it is single-handedly “infantilising half the population,” notes that pink products are rumored to be high sellers among divorced and separated women, and asks: “What does this say—that when reality bites hard, so hard it draws blood, it’s time for a woman to reach for the pink stuff? Because then you are transported back to a time when everything is fluffy and pretty, and there are no monsters under the bed (or in it).”

Call me crazy, but I think that being treated as though we have no agency over major life decisions like divorce infantilizes women more than all the pink cell phones in the world ever will.

And, by the way, I have a pink cell phone, and I don’t believe that anyone who’s known me for more than about three seconds doesn’t understand intuitively (even if they couldn’t put it into words) they are witnessing what Sarah Vowell so perfectly described in “American Goth,” first on This American Life and then in Take the Cannoli, in which she goes to San Francisco for a goth makeover:

Step one of the guidelines is choose a goth name. Indra says, “Most of us have changed our names to be something more gothic. A lot of people legally change their name. Live it!” According to Mary, “If you go into any of the goth clubs nowadays, you’ll find a lot of spooky names—like Raven and Rat and Sage.”

…Maybe it’s because I came of age in the ’80s and I’ve seen Blue Velvet too many times, but to me, the really frightening stuff has nothing to do with ravens and rats. The truly sordid has a sunny Waspy glow. Therefore, I tell them, the most perverse name I can think of is Becky. It turns out that by saying the magic word “Becky” I have suddenly moved to the head of the class, gothwise. As Monique puts it: “You are understanding the pink of goth. You’re skipped a couple of levels and you went straight to pink.”

The group’s consensus is that pink is the apex of expert goth—that newcomers and neophytes should stick with basic black but those confident enough, complex enough, can exude gloom and doom while wearing the color of sugar and spice. Indra argues that pink can be “an intelligent, sarcastic color.”

Indeed. Irony, thy name is pink.

And sometimes Pretty Sweater That Looks Nice With My Skin Tone, thy name is pink, too—and there’s frankly nothing better that knowing you look hot and ironic.

In all seriousness, there is quite nearly a point in Ellen’s piece, but she’s too busy trying to prove that she isn’t one of those pink-wearing, ninny-brained tarts to actually make the point. And the legitimate point that could be made is that too often marketers associate pink with unseriousness, making pink cameras or wev dumbed-down versions of their black or silver equivalents. It’s like the offensive disparity of toys offered in the Discovery Channel Kids’ Store, at which boys are offered forensics kits and girls are offered nail decorating kits:

Mike notes “you have to get to the bottom of the girls page to see the ‘Discovery Whodunit? Forensics Lab’—the first item for the boys,” and also questions whether Marie Curie played with Jelloopdeloops. Well, pre-feminism, science wasn’t so much about accessorizing as it is now! Duh.

What’s actually most telling about the disparity between the boys’ and girls’ sections are the items that don’t make the crossover between the two at all. Beyond age 12, there’s no division by sex for teens and adults, so why the separation for kids under 12? Considering the vast majority of the stuff is listed on both pages, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Until, that is, you consider how patently absurd it would be to offer a toy nail salon as an “educational toy” in a non-gendered context.

Only seen through the prism of sex-separatism does all of the other completely unrelated-to-science crap being marketed to the girls—Make Your Own Twirly TuTu, Twist & Wrap Style Hair Salon, Jewelry Keeper, Fairyopolis Book, Hand-Powered Button Maker—seem passably “educational” to the uncritical eye. As expected, the stuff exclusive to the boys’ section—bug catchers, erector sets, horror balls (grody!)—are things that shouldn’t be considered sex-specific, but are, simply to offset the surfeit of pink rubbish being hawked to girls under the pretense of science.

That’s a point worth making. “Women who wear pink are stupid and I’m not one of them!” is not.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “New Rule

  1. Kate Harding

    1. Ooh, I need to blogwhore now.

    2. I LOVE pink. Unironically, even. As you said: skin tone. Among other things. The problem is not that pink exists, or even that it denotes femininity. The problem, as you note, is that femininity = weakness, childishness, frivolity, ergo pink does too. But it’s so much easier to blame the color itself. That makes sense.

    3. The footy Liss graphic might be my favorite ever.

    4.Is she fucking kidding me with the divorce thing?

    That is all.

  2. Wilson46201

    I’m a 65yo gay man who uses a pink cellphone. All the 4 colors offered at the SprintStore were so blandly bland: pink for a male was the most outstanding therefore…

  3. i own, and wear onstage, a pink Versace jacket. motherfucker’s made from raw silk. and looks bloody marvelous.

  4. I thought pink was for us queers. Since when do the straights get to expropriate a color because it goes well with their outfits?

    Harrumph.

  5. Just swung on by to congratulate you on your superb choice of new running buddies: Jeff Fecke, who is pinker and prouder than previous, as Nick Lowe would say.

  6. (minstrel boy, I’m being sarcastic. I bet you look great in that jacket.)

  7. Mamasquab

    What I hate is all the pink for breast cancer marketing. EEEEEyuw!

  8. Arkades

    Whereas I am a gay man, but have no particular affinity for pink. (*gasp!*) From carnations to Cadillacs, Barbie to Pepto, pink is the color that makes me roll my eyes and think “yeah, whatever.”

    I prefer saturation, intensity! Gimme a deep red, a vivid blue, a strong green or a pure violet. (The closest things to pink that I actually like would be magenta or fuchsia… again, fairly saturated reddish-purples.)

  9. As I read this, I look at the pink around me. There’s a beaded hot pink Mary Kay lipstick case (with a MAC “Sandy B” lipstick inside), a little pink stressball thingy in the shape of a piggy bank, the pink-and-beige print dress I’m wearing, the dark pink crocheted sweater that goes with it. And then, of course, there are the acres of pink skin that I’m covered with. I look appallingly good in pink.

    Irony is not always present. The dress? Totally unironic. The bubblegum pink leather biker jacket I’d love to have someday to wear to leather/fetish/BDSM events? So ironic it sets of metal detectors at the airport. I’ve got a black biker jacket, but I think I might rip the quilted lining out. I love that jacket, but it’s too hot to wear more than three or four days in the winter here. Between the wife and I we wear so much black that there’s a load of only black clothes when we do laundry.

    Yeah, so my relationship with pink is complex.

    Why is divorce always devastating? Isn’t it at least sometimes a liberating experience? Not coincidentally, the same questions apply to abortion. It’s always the hardest decision a woman will make, she always agonizes over it, and wonders for years after if she’d done the right thing. At least the Woman as portrayed in the mainstream media. The real live actual women of my experience aren’t nearly so anguished over it.

  10. ‘sOK bobby, i only wear it to piss off my gay friends (and outrage my conservative mother by telling her how much i paid for it) i also own Versace jackets in purple (double breasted) and hunter green (shawl collar, single button)

    i’m just an ol’ country boy from the rez but damn, Versace must have used a plaster cast of my torso (which is usually impossible to fit off the rack) for his sewing.

    and it pisses off my gay friends when i steal their colors.

  11. Thorn

    Mamasquab touched on the point I see in this: if pink products are bought disproportionately by divorced and separated women, what percentage of those products are the “shop for the cure” versions of regular products?

    I mean, my mom was a sucker for all that stuff, and it wasn’t because she was yearning for some fluffy-bunny infant-y time, but rather because she was trying to support other women. Having eschewed the “protection” of a man, she decided that women needed to stick together and support each other, and so she bought any damn thing with a pink ribbon on it with abandon.

    It wasn’t out of some kind of voluntary obliviousness, but out of solidarity. Honestly, it was just about the height of my mom’s feminism.

  12. When I think pink, I think of it as a verb. As in those nasty looking pinking shears that cut sharp teeth. I’d like to pink to death every article of nonsense that focuses attention away from the genuine issues of gender inequality in the name of feminism.

  13. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Off topic, but the pink footy picture reminds me that it has been a long time since we’ve read any chronicled adventures of Dr. Zero and the Pink Petulance. 🙂

  14. Soul

    God, pink is sexy. How hard is it to figure out why a divorced or newly single woman would want to use it? I guess newly single and elated women are supposed to behave more ‘respectably’ than to dash out and buy a sexy new pink ‘whatever’. Personally, I’m more of a camoflauge color range buyer. Camo or black. I don’t think I own anything pink except… well…

  15. I was going to write about this article but couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was irritating me, considering I’ve recently blogged about the oversupply of genderised pinkification as infantilising.

    You’ve nailed it. It’s not pink per se (something I also acknowledged, and I do wear pink shirts, although I eschew pink accessories), and she’s way too busy distancing herself from pink per se.

  16. Another Pinkster receives empowerment:

  17. I look horrid in pink and I never wear it, don’t like it around me and don’t use much it in my paintings. I don’t think it makes me any more or less of a woman or feminine to have a color I don’t like.

  18. Melissa McEwan

    I don’t think it makes me any more or less of a woman or feminine to have a color I don’t like.

    Was there a suggestion in this thread somewhere that it did?

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